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FAA: Flight testing not required for Cirrus jet's parachute system

Cirrus Vision SF50 file photo from Cirrus Aircraft.

As the Cirrus SF50 Vision personal jet nears completion of a type certification process it began in 2008, the FAA plans to evaluate the aircraft’s ballistic parachute recovery system without requiring costly and potentially dangerous in-flight testing of the technology designed to bring the aircraft safely down in an emergency.

The FAA detailed how it intends to approve the SF50’s parachute system in a notice of proposed special conditions published March 18.

The FAA noted that unlike the Cirrus Aircraft Parachute Systems (CAPS) approved for its piston single-engine SR20 and SR22 models, “the SF50 CAPS is a supplemental system and no credit for the system will be used to meet part 23 requirements,” the agency’s rules containing aircraft airworthiness standards.

A major design difference between the SF50 CAPS and Cirrus’s previously approved parachute technology—credited by the company with saving about 100 lives—is a new component that interacts with the aircraft’s avionics and flight controls. This interface is designed to bring the airplane within a “valid deployment envelope speed” of between 67 and 160 knots calibrated airspeed when the parachute system is activated. The CAPS system for the jet also was designed for higher gross weight, maximum activation speed, and altitude of operation.

“Since it is a non-required system, the means of substantiation have been altered to reflect the bounds of the operating envelope, the means of analysis that can be substantiated with overlapping lower-level testing/analysis, and relieve in-flight deployment to avoid unnecessary expense and the inherent danger in performing this test,” the notice said.

Systems evaluated as subjects of special conditions must meet two baseline criteria: They must not introduce unacceptable hazards prior to or after activation, and there must be a showing by the applicant that the system does not adversely affect the functioning of other systems, or adversely influence the safety of the aircraft or occupants.

“The applicant does not have to prove or demonstrate that the system works in flight,” the FAA said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Technology

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